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Whenever I’m asked, “how do you measure the ROI of a public relations campaign?” I’m reminded of Peter Drucker’s insight: “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” What he was is saying is that you won’t know if you are successful unless success can be tracked and defined. However, the etymology of Drucker’s phrase can be traced to Galileo, who said, “Count what is countable, measure what is measurable. What is not measurable, make measurable.” In Galileo’s ancient insight we find the real value of public relations’ relationship to ROI for marketers.
Certainly public relations can be measured from both a quantifiable and quantitative perspective. We can trace the number of views or hits on a story as it travels across media, identify when key messages appear, and determine where and who is receiving and then repeating our message. We’ve been doing it, in some fashion, ever since Edward Bernays invented the sweet science of PR.
However, its impact on other aspects of a marketing campaign is significant.
Let’s examine digital marketing, where an advertisement (paid media) can be clicked-through by a target audience member to a landing page, or an e-commerce site. And then convinced by marketing techniques to take a specific action: make a purchase, download a coupon, select a product sample, or request a call from sales.
In this scenario, public relations’ influence on the brand is also significant. Acting as earned media, PR drives traffic to your site, works to position the brand in the target audience mind, and shapes opinion to create engagement. Engagement leads to increased brand loyalty, a relationship with the audience member, and increased revenues over time. Engagement is the golden goose of marketing today. Impressions are easily and cheaply bought.
Public relations also works to combat competitive threats that may underscore the effectiveness of a marketing campaign. Imagine the negative effects on ROI if you launch a major digital marketing campaign and your competition launches a PR attack on your brand? It’s often financially prudent to be on the offense rather than the defense.
The evolution of marketing into a digital construct that enables brands to engage with audience members has brought Galileo’s ancient insight into greater focus. With PR in the mix, you can make what was not previously measured, measurable. Only when you measure the entire spectrum of a campaign’s effectiveness through the lens of public relations can you truly manage it for success.